Thursday, March 8, 2012

charlie's secret

dear friends,  i found a book this week, and it's been weighing on my heart. 'knitwits' was in the children's section of our local second hand store. on the cover is a picture of a young boy. he's sitting on a toilet, holding a pair of knitting needles with a work in progress and a skein of yarn at his feet. on his face is a look i interpreted as embarrassment and surprise. next to his head are the words  'charlie has a really BIG secret'.

intrigued, i turned the book over to read the back:

" Knit a sweater? No sweat!"

"Charlie Kenny's mother is having a baby. And instead of getting the kid a normal present, like a teddy bear or a rattle, Charlie gets himself into a bet. To knit something for the baby.
Sure, Charlie couldn't resist trying to win Alices' collection of skulls (including one from a goat). But he can't knit! And what if the guys on his hockey team find out?
It looks like Charlie has two choices: Break the bet...or find a very good place to hide."

this makes me sad. but hardly surprised. i am not a preadolescent boy, but i have done my share of hiding knitting through my life. it's a complicated subject, and one i still don't understand, why it's this way. back in 1974 elizabeth zimmerman wrote that knitting is almost an orphan among accepted crafts. have things changed enough in the last forty years? would she be happy with the way things are now? although this book was written in 1992, now twenty years later, i am not sure. (i haven't read the book yet, maybe it'll have a different story than what i'm imagining).

sometimes, i still feel it. apologetic. or even, dare i say, embarrassed, to knit in public (i should say this in response to perhaps making someone else feel uncomfortable). i've knit my way around the world (taking these feelings and wool, with me) and i've had various reactions to it, from delight, to disdain. the thing is, i'm not sure it's changed that much. i'm wondering what your feelings are? am i making too much of this book?  do you sometimes feel uneasy while knitting outside your home, or feel you make others uncomfortable by doing so? and non-knitters, your feelings too? i know i'm biased, i think it's a beautiful craft, one of the arts. i've lately wished there were such a thing as yarn along town.
i think i would like to live there.

xxx lori

p.s. my shawl,  it's nearly done.   :)


  1. Lori, I knit home, in the car, waiting in line, waiting on a food order, you name it ...and I make no apologizies for it. My love of this craft runs very deep, I am not harming another soul as I needle away, so I wouldn't let it bother me if someone looked on in distain. So far I have not had anyone say anything unkind.
    You know I have four sons, two of which still live at home. I have offered to teach them both, and get a nervous NO Thank You reply. Is it just a teenage thing? I don't know, but then I'm not a teenage boy.
    Your book sounds pretty typical of how a boy would act to me, at least I think so anyway.
    I am glad you had a great time today! :)

  2. What a curious subject for a book Lori! Let us know what happens in the story : ) I teach handwork in a Steiner school where all the children learn to knit, so it's the norm and boys and girls are equally proud of their work. I do sometimes wish there were more more men out there knitting publicly, would be wonderful for the children to see, and historically we are told that knitting began in the hands of men, who passed it on to women. So if we feel shy about knitting in public, imagine how it must feel for a man, Yikes! We simply must keep knitting (proudly)in public to help raise its profile, encourage others, and maybe even 'normalise' it. I'm quite happy knitting in public, though more than once I've been told by friends 'you're like an old granny sitting in the chair!'And I know that loved ones feel that I'm not really present with them if I'm knitting in their company ; )I'm interested to hear more about you feel about knitting in public, so please do go on, and thanks for opening up such an interesting topic. As for your wish for a Yarn Along town, I love it and look forward to sitting with you there one day ; ) xMia

  3. Hmm. I've never felt embarrassed to knit (or crochet) in public. I do sometimes wonder what people might think of me. And once I apologized to my husband in case having his crazy wife always knitting was embarrassing. He assured me that he could care less (he still likes to tease me about being a little, old, lady though).

    I do worry about those sorts of things in books and media making my kids second guess themselves, though.

    And I would totally move to Yarn Along Town. (:

  4. I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me a couple years ago....dang....I am almost 48....I just want to be me! :) I am on my way to the All School Choir Concert tonight....will is 2 hours long and girl will only be singing for 10 of those minutes. :)
    My friend, Mary, knits at ball games.....even Football!!! I'm sorry.....I am too busy screaming to knit then. :)

  5. Never felt embarrassed to knit in public. The ONLY two responses I've ever had to people seeing me knit are "Wow, I really wish I could knit" or "Could you knit me something?" My boyfriend (of 7 years) does tease me sometimes about how I'm kind of a little old lady, like the post above discusses, but he's kind of an old man in some ways too, so that's ok.

    Actually, now that I'm typing I was once at an "indie kids/hipster" social of about 8-10 people a few months ago. I was sitting on one of the couches around the wood stove along with others, and as I was talking/telling a story I whipped out a sock I had been working on. I kept knitting and looking people in the eye as I knitted, which is when I noticed some of the guys didn't seem to understand what was going on/I was doing and it was somewhat strange. Didn't think much of it at the time, or until now. The confusion may have stemmed from the look of my wooden dpns, which people don't inherently understand as "knitting" when they see them in action.

    Good luck with knitting in public though, don't hide it! :) I love the photos you show of your work.

  6. Lori, you have to check out my post a few weeks back:

    My son is 10, has red hair like the boy on the cover of your book. Reminds me sooo much of him! Too funny. I got a kick out of this post.

    BYW, I love knitting in public. It confused people, creates discussion usually makes people happy. :)

  7. You know, I know A LOT of knitters. Although I can't think of any guys that knit, but I do know some guys on Flickr that needlepoint. I would love to knit, and the only feeling I have when I see someone knitting is envy. :) xox!

  8. It's funny you should say that, I find that I sometimes get embarrassed too knitting in public. Then there are other times, that I get 'lost' in my knitting that I forget where I am. I think sometimes knitting can help you from feeling awkward too and it certainly is a conversation starter.

  9. my son , who is 7, wants to knit. here in australia, especially on the small island of tasmania, everyone knits and those who dont wish they did ( however maybe in secret!)
    perhaps its where you are? i dont suppose california is very cold, but in colder places knitting was seen, taught, and inherited, out of necessity.
    i knit in public and know heaps who do and never ever ever would it be embarassing, i'm shocked to know anyone is !
    in my jane austen's knit magazine - i'm working on a funny post for it now - it talks about the 'georgian' period, and how only the poor were seen knitting stockings ( socks ) for the rich until the queen victoria who was raised by her german grandmother and mother ( see, germans are all knitters and its cold there ) was a prolific knitter and did it in PUBLIC !!! it was an instant trendsetter. the queen knits ! what would jane austen think of that? x

  10. Just don't knit while driving, everywhere else is okay.

    It's charming, why should you care?

    I'm a horrible knitter, just the basics but I taught my son when he was younger and his friends were impressed, Remember Rosy Greer? geeesh he was primed with a name like that but he wore his craft proud and out of the closet, gotta love that!

    Love your pictures too, xoxo

  11. forgot to say, and also ! yarn along town would be so rad, instead of going next door for an egg, it would be to borrow and size 4 double point set, that you know they'd surely have ! :)
    which i need....

  12. I love knitting and take my knitting everywhere in my handbag. I always have a handbag project on the go. Clearly I don't want to be a closet knitter. But I have to admit I do feel self-conscious knitting in public. Even at a breakfast with my best (non-knitter) friends! And I dread the question "What are you knitting?" That makes me feel even more self-conscious! But I'm going to keep on knitting in public anyway.

  13. I knit everywhere--all the time. There is a project that lives in my that lives in my purse---and assorted scattered around the house. Never not knitting (that was me probably before Alana was even born!) I don't knit during church, and it's sort of funny, because people kid me that I don't. Knitting has become part of who I am. I've had many people curious about my knitting but never unkind. Of my 7 grandchildren, though, the only one who knits is my 7 year old grandson. He loves it. He asked for more knitting needles and yarn for Christmas. (I did share with him that some of the most famous knitwear designers are men. He still wants to be a famous chess player when he grows up--who knits his own sweaters. Gotta love that boy!)

  14. I brought my knitting to work today but didn't get a chance to do any. But I feel that even if I took my lunch hour to knit at my desk people would give me grief. Therefore I was planning to sit in my car, listen to tunes and knit.

  15. Oh, if I could knit, I'd be so proud,,,,I wouldn't mind one stich what anyone thought about it!
    I wasn't even aware of any stigma surrounding it, as the last few years it seems to be so popular. And among young women; not just grannies like me!
    Wave those needles proudly,,,and knit on,,,,everywhere!

  16. I knit in public all the time. Before taking my maternity leave, I used to knit on my commute to and from work. In this situation I've only ever had positive experiences. So many people have asked about my knitting and then gone on to tell me about their mother or grandmother's knitting and how beautiful it was.

    However, I have had some negative experiences at work. I organized a group of knitters in the Library where I work, and we had a hugely successful knitting group. We met every Thursday and knit on our lunch hour. At first, we all got the impression that they library directors didn't like our knitting at work. They would suddenly appear every Thursday in the lounge at 2pm and make us all uncomfortable, sometimes pulling me away from my knitting to ask about a certain report I was working on. This happened a few times. But after a few months my bosses stopped coming around and our group was fully embraced, and we were even asked to host a knitting workshop at the next staff development day.

  17. thank you everyone for your wonderful thoughtful comments. xxx lori

  18. I would like to migrate to that dream town, too!!!
    xxx Alessandra

  19. Lori -- are you kidding me?? Hide it?? Any ability to create anything from strands of wool and cotton should be celebrated, envied, and appreciated. I watched my grandmother whip me up mittens (with a string of course) and my father, his favourite socks. I watcher her in amazement as articles of clothing would gradually take shape under her needles. My daughter told me that it had become trendy in her university for guys to knit. How cool is that?? Once again -- I am jealous - and have added learning to knit to my bucket list. xxoo

  20. I've been knitting in public for over 25 years and I have faced a lot of criticism....."why are you knitting that?" "isn't it cheaper to buy it in a store?" woman stated she has too much to do to WASTE time knitting. I kind of took that one personally. Knitting for me is the cheapest therapy on the planet. I am not ashamed of it.

  21. Hi Lori, I do sometimes knit or crochet in public. My husband wishes I wouldn't!! I've had similar comments to Swanski, (just above me), from people who don't have time to knit, the very same people who then go on to tell me what they watched on TV last night!! I usually answer that I don't have time to watch TV!! - some get my drift, some don't!!
    All that said, I do feel a little self-conscious all the same!!
    'Yarn along' Town, yes please!!

  22. That's funny. I am very sensitive (thin skinned, maybe...), but I've never felt embarrassed to knit in public. Cannot say the same for my husband - he is not so sure that one should knit at piano recitals. And he put his foot down - no knitting in church. Sigh. I also love it when someone else knits in public - I find that even if we have very little other than knitting in common, we still have so much in common. Almost like wearing a little "I could quite possibly be your friend" badge. Very handy!

  23. Oh bless you, Lori. I knit in public all the time, and I have never had anything other than interest in the yarn or item. Women here have always knitted - at one time it was the height of laziness to be seen without knitting - they knitted constantly.
    Here is a picture for you

    Knit in public with pride. xxx

  24. I used to KIP a lot more than I do now. Mostly I just knit in the car while I wait for the kids to get out of school. Recently, though, I took my WIP to the library and snuck in some rows while the kids checked out books. Thankfully no one said anything. I think I just got tired of the strange looks (from adults), although children were always curious and friendly.

  25. I have to say I have felt embarrassed knitting in public. I don't often get the opportunity (I'm usually chasing kids) but the few times I have knit around people I have gotten the impression that they think I'm showing off or am obsessed (umm, yeah, that last bit is true). But I honestly think its mostly in my mind. I'd like to think the glances I notice are mainly curiosity. As for the comments I get about knitting per se or the finished pieces - nothing but "wows" and "I wish I could do that". So I think most people see it as art, as a skill. Which it is and something to be proud of! Knitting is pure love to me. Taking time to make something for someone else, something to keep someone warm or make them feel special - thats a big thing. I love that I can do that!

  26. I love when I see people knitting in public and I always give them a huge smile. Sometimes I want to ask for help but so far I've been too shy. and I too knit in public and have never gotten any strange looks or comments. I think knitting is pretty "cool" now, at least in my circles.

  27. When I first read this post, I thought, 'nah, I'm not self conscious about knitting.' But then, as I thought more about it, I realized that there are times I do -- feel self conscious that is. East Texas is not a big stronghold of knitters, and in fact, I only know one other knitter here in my part of the world. So yes, I think there are quite a few muggles around who do look at us as being a bit suspect -- weird little people who don't have anything better to do (like watching prime time soaps or going to goat ropings ;). But that said, oh well, I knit on. And anyway, I think some of them are weird ;).
    Blessings to you Miss Lori!

  28. Dear Lori...When I first saw that book cover image of the boy, before reading anything, I thought it was a bit, um, strange. But what you write about being a closet hobby, I can see how a teenage boy might feel that way. My six year old son (my oldest) just learned how to knit and has taken flight with it. But, around here in British Columbia, we have a pretty supportive community for that sort of thing. Some homes we visit, the little boys are lined up on the couch knitting! I also take my knitting everywhere, and while I was self-conscious at first, I'm losing any concern about what others think about my knitting. Because, at the end of the day, my loved ones are wearing mama-made knits:)

  29. Awwwwww. I don't think it's the knitting, per se, that's embarrassing. It's more of a girl thing. Although I read about a famous male actor who is an excellent knitter. Darn it, though, I forgot who it was. Personally, I don't mind at all if someone is knitting in public. I think it's wonderful! Amateur that I am, even I have pulled out knitting while waiting for my child during gymnastics. I really don't understand why anyone would have disdain for it. You know what I really really really hate though? When people clip their nails in public. Ew.

  30. Your story reminded me of a little boy called Ben at a school where I worked. He would bring his knitting to school every day and sit on a bench in the playground after lunch knitting. I admired him so much. He wanted to knit and so he knitted, he didn't care what anyone else thought. He was in his own little world quietly enjoying creating something. I loved that he had the confidence to do so. This was probably ten years ago and knitting hadn't had the big renaissance that it has here over the last few years. It was really unusual to see a man knitting...albeit a little one.

    I'm 56 and have always knitted in public quite comfortably...maybe like Ben I'm a bit of a my own little world. I sometimes felt sorry for my father the only male in a house of five knitters on evenings when we my three sisters and mum and I would get out our knitting and five sets of pins would begin to click. As a child we had boats and would spend the summer holidays on the inland waterways cruising from village to village. My father complained about me bringing my knitting along until a shearing pin broke in the Seagull engine and he needed a piece of metal the dimension of my knitting needles to repair it! It worked perfectly so our journey continued...He never complained about knitting again...

    Like you I've knitted on beaches and on buses and boats and trains and have had great conversations with people doing so. But It's got so much easier over the last few years with people knitting bombing public places and men and women talking about it.

  31. I know it's a bit off topic, but I just had another thought that sadly although it would be much more acceptable for a boy to knit today than it was ten years ago, because of tight health and safety regulations in the UK he probably wouldn't be allowed to do so!

    Knitting needles would be considered dangerous just like some airlines won't let you take them on board a flight and the traditional British game of conkers is now banned in schools and even egg cartons can't be brought into to make model crocodiles because of the fear of contracting Salmonella poisoning from them...

    ...It's weird how things change...

  32. Lori, you are officially my knitting muse. Everything knitting project you share goes straight to my queue.

  33. Lori I've always admired anyone and everyone who does any kind of craft when they can. I've seen people knit, embroider, quilt, crotchet and scribble away in notebooks. I think its wonderful to make their minutes count any way they want.
    If I'd seen you working on your nancy knitter making those worms, I would be consumed with curiosity about what you were making, and wish I could be so adept with my eye to hand coordination!

  34. I love how this book caught your attention. I feel that exact same way about knitting in public. Since I appear to be an open person, people feel the need to say a number of things about knitting/knitters. The comments range from, how much would you charge me to knit "blank" to "look at your knitting like a little granny". I am saved by my witty responses, but sometimes they bug the heck out of me. My ex-boyfriend used to say it was a lazy person's activity.
    I think sometimes I don't knit in public just avoid the looks and comments. I go back and forth between being defiant and embarassed.
    Let us know how this book turns out! Also the knitting looks fanstastic. :)

  35. Back when I was teaching first grade, I found my male students (especially the rambunctious ones) to be very receptive to learning how to knit. I started them off with finger knitting. Then there were some requests for "those sharp sticks," so I taught a couple to actually knit. Students who couldn't sit still for a minute without fidgeting suddenly were calm, hands busy, yet they were still able to pay attention simultaneously. I can only hope these six year olds continue to knit and be proud of their craft, even through those trying teenage years.

  36. i have never felt embarrassed by knitting in public and have only received a lot of curious onlookers and kind remarks if any. maybe it's always been acceptable in my knitting years. i started knitting in my 20s - a little before it became popular and mainstream again. what are you knitting btw? it looks beautiful...

  37. Hmm.. I want to read this book!

    I think that knitting is more "accepted" in public these days then it was in the past. It's hip! It's cool! It's trendy! I take my knitting out whenever I am out and about and I have more than five minutes on my hands. I just don't like my hands being idle. I'm sure there are people who would probably take offense of it, but then again, I find it offensive when people are in a group and they're constantly texting on their phones!

    Do let us know how Charlie turns out with his knitting. :)

  38. I had to comment on this topic Lori. I knit (& sew) in public at times, often as a passenger in the car. I'm not embarrassed at all to be doing either, except that my knitting style is so awkward and slow (I'm self taught & can't seem to throw my strange way of knitting!) that I feel embarrassed about that at times. Sewing, on the other hand. No embarrassment at all! Keep knitting in public, ladies (and gentlemen). It's fantastic, and it's a beautiful artform. On the topic of boys knitting, my 11y/o nephew knits a little and sometimes shares rows with my 85y/o dad!!! Dad said that during WWII, everyone, including school-aged boys, was encouraged to knit for the troops. And he is proud to tell anyone who asks that he once knitted a pair of socks for the cause!

  39. I knit in public and am relatively unaware of other people's reactions I must admit. I think people mostly look at me out of the corners of their eyes, or, are delighted and fascinated, always wanting to know what I'm knitting, so I'm fortunate in that I haven't been at the receiving end of negativity about knitting in public. Perhaps people are getting used to it. I think that if I did receive any negativity, I like to think I would just shrug it off. That book is perhaps a sign of how the times have changed, the author wouldn't dream of writing that now I imagine, if he's still alive! If there's anything positive you can get out of that book, maybe it's that the times have changed enough for that theme to be unacceptable, so you've got a little piece of social history there Lori! I totally get where you're coming from about it making you sad though, it is sad to think that people would have been made to feel embarrassed about knitting. Love Vanessa xxx

  40. Lori, the last time I saw someone knitting at the hair salon, I asked her if she would teach!!! She was so amazed about my question and said yes and she gave me her phone number!
    Well, I really don´t see anything wrong about it and here and there I see women knitting while waiting their kids at the English class or Swimming class or at the bank (?), I guess it´s quite "normal" here...

  41. My BoyF's Grandfather was the most accomplished knitter I knew...He would send "trigger" mittens { } every year as Christmas gifts. Here in Newfoundland a lot of older men knit, I think due to the making and mending fishing nets...Neither the handmade nets or the knitting men are common any more. Sad.
    There is a fabulous old photo of him knitting next to the old wood stove. Handsome {looking like Daniel Day Lewis} and proud...
    xo to you Lori

  42. I crochet in public but I do get some strange looks and a few (positive) comments. I even crochet in work at lunch.

  43. better late than never...I actually bring my knitting to bars now. :) The first time I did it, it was with a friend who does it all the time and was perfectly comfortable. Then I started doing it on my own - I tend to be SUPER early to any timed event even if it's just meeting people for a drink (plus all my friends tend to be late) I usually have anywhere from 30-60 minutes on my own before people show up. It's a great way to kill time.

    Peoples' reactions are not at all what I expected them to be, though. Every single time I've done it, I've had someone come up to me and engage in a long conversation about the long have I done it, what kinds of things can I make, how long did it take to make what I already have on the needles, how much does it cost, how did I learn...etc. It's so fun, you say "knitting" and people imagine a granny, but you see a 30-something woman drinking craft beer and making an amazing baby blanket, and you want to know more!

    So now if I want a quiet time by myself at the bar, I have to leave the knitting at home. ;-)


xoxo lori